Thursday, August 27, 2009

Two Months and Counting

Do you hear the clock ticking? I do. It’s two months as of today before Buck Fever will be released. Excuse me for a moment while I clap madly while tossing back a handful of aspirins. For me, prepping for my novel to bust out into the world brings on giddy excitement and a sort of chilled stomach sink coupled with nail-nibbling anxiety. I hear this is standard operating procedure. Oh, joy. Anyway, despite all this, I’m making this blog entry about shameless self-promotion because Megan Rebekah, a wonderful former teacher and writer sent me a lovely review to post.

Let me rewind for a moment and explain that I gave away some advanced reader copies of Buck Fever about a month ago and Megan scored a copy. I would also like to share that Megan admitted to me that she wondered, upon seeing the book, if she would like the story. I have heard this a couple times before, recently. People not necessarily interested in reading about hunting and unaware that Buck Fever is about more than guns and deer, glimpse the cover and think Uh-oh, will I like this? These readers have been nice enough to let me know that they’ve been pleasantly surprised. Fabulous. Anyway, enough blah-blah from me. Here is Megan’s review:

"Buck Fever does an amazing job of portraying the emotional struggle that children face when trying to please their parents while establishing their own unique identities. The main character, Joey, made me cry with his raw, open feelings and desire to be a good son that would make his father proud. Joey’s not perfect, and he knows it, but he tries to do right by everyone – his parents, his older sister, his friends, his coach, even the next-door neighbor.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a character that tugs at your heart strings and gets under your skin, or someone captivated by the viewpoint of a young hunter who yearns to bond with his father, but is emotionally paralyzed by Buck Fever."

No spoilers, either! You didn’t really think I’d keep this to myself, did you?

You can visit Megan Rebekah at and I did and her young adult novel in progress sounds amazing. And boy, does she have an adorable doggie!

Thanks, Megan!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Book Talk With Derek

If you’re like me, you think about your audience, both boys and girls. You probably agree, too, that nothing beats getting to know young readers. So, when I had the opportunity, recently, to talk about books with Derek, a thirteen-year-old guy going into the eighth grade, I jumped at the opportunity. Here’s how some of our conversation went:

Hey, Derek, thanks for taking the time to chat with me about books. Okay, so tell me, what kind of books do you most like to read?

I’m not a big fan of comic books. I’m more of a fan of suspense books.

Interesting. Why do you prefer suspense?

Because suspense books are not very predictable. What’s the point of reading if you know what’s going to happen? Or, if you can guess what’s going to happen?

I don’t love comic books because there are not a lot of details. Not enough details.

Do you have a favorite book?

My favorite book right now is Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

Yeah, I really liked that book, too. What did you like best about it?

It’s like. . . Hmmm, what did I like best about it? It’s unusual. I think that’s what I liked best.

Was there any particular part or scene of The Graveyard Book that you enjoyed the most?

No. I liked all of that book.

Are there any topics that you prefer to read about?

I can’t really say. Nothing in particular as long as I like the plot and the premise and the characters.

Liking the characters is important to me, too. What makes a character likeable to you?

As long as the characters are not annoying, they’re fine. I like to relate to the characters, the way everyone does, I guess.

That’s a great point. What are some things that you definitely don’t want to read about?

I’m not a big fan of biography books or realistic fiction. Or, romance stuff.

So, you prefer fantasy and science fiction?

Yeah, I guess that’s about right.

I don’t read a book to be in my life or someone’s life just like mine. I want to read a book that takes me to other places and into other lives and situations different than my own.

That makes perfect sense. Do you ever talk with your friends about books that you’ve read?

Not really. A lot of my friends don’t read what I do. Many of them only read what they have to read. They just don’t care about reading. I think the reason they don’t read is because they don’t want to put in the effort, which is too bad, but it’s their choice.

What advice would you give to someone writing books for boys?

I would say be creative and think about your story and try to make it really unusual and odd. That is what I like and what works out pretty well for me. I think that’s what other people like, too.

Do you prefer to read books about boys, with boys as main characters?

No. I don’t mind reading about girls. Either way, books about boys or books about girls are fine.

What do you think you might read next?

Probably The Hunger Games.

Good choice!

Thanks, Derek! Happy continued reading. And if you come upon a book that you like, let me know, okay?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Snippets of Inspiration

One of the reasons that I love attending conferences and workshops is that I find quotes and snippets of talks immensely inspiring. They are sort of like volts of electricity, but in a good way (not a finger in the socket way). They kick my brain into gear, steer me down new paths. So, here are my ten most recent personal favorite quotes and almost quotes:

1. Never forget the initial spark, the grain of sand that starts the pearl. Kathleen Duey

2. “Start a story as close to the end as possible.” Richard Peck

3. “Happy writing equals sad reading.” Richard Peck

4. “The first page of the story is the last page in disguise.” Richard Peck

5. “Trust yourself and know your truth.” Kadir Nelson

6. Writing is pulling our hearts from our chests and offering them to our readers. Karen Cushman

7. “Tell the truth and let go of the outcome.” Karen Cushman

8. “Give your pain to your characters.” Ellen Hopkins

9. “Literature lets us try on the life of someone else.” Holly Black

10.“Never shut up about your book.” Elizabeth Law

11. The importance in writing lies in putting yourself into your writing. Dinah Stevenson

Okay, so you've probably figured out by now that I lied—I put down eleven of my favorite quotes and snippets, not ten. Math has never been my strongest skill. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoyed these and can find a bit of inspiration in at least one of the eleven! Do you have any great quotes or snippets that you find inspiring? Want to share? I’d love to hear them!

Monday, August 17, 2009

An Interview: Shannon Hitchcock

With The 39th Annual Summer Conference still ringing in my head, I thought that I would post an interview with wonderful, first-time attendee, Shannon Hitchcock. Shannon has published in Highlights for Children, Cricket magazine, Pockets, and Wee Ones Children’s Magazine. But the most recent big news is that she was nominated for the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award at the conference this year. Awesome, Shannon! This is one of those jump up and down with excitement moments!

Manuscripts nominated for this award are chosen by the critiquers at the Los Angeles conference from those submitted for individual review. The Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award is then given to the manuscript deemed most promising for publication. A three-member panel makes the final selection after the conference. The winner receives an expense-paid trip to New York to meet with interested editors. Sweet!

So, let’s chat with Shannon:

Good morning, Shannon. So, tell us, why did you decided to attend The 38th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference?

Because my husband talked me into it! Every year, I look at the brochure, and decide not to attend because of the expense. This year my husband said, “just do it.”

Points scored for the hubby! What did you hope to learn from this conference?

I wanted to research agents, and I was looking for a big dose of motivation.

But you received more than you’d hoped for, right? On Friday morning, the first day of the conference, during your picture book critique for TALL TALE RAY, you found out that it was nominated for the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award. Wow! Tell us about the experience of being nominated.

Being nominated was totally unexpected. My heart started pounding, my palms were sweating. I missed most of the actual critique because I was in shock.

Other than your fabulous critique experience, what did you enjoy most about the conference?

Having four days in the company of other writers. I especially liked meeting up with other Verla Kay blueboarders. Linda Joy Singleton was hard to miss. She had on a tee shirt with one of her book covers on the front.

I love that idea! What a great way to promote!

There were lots of workshops to attend at the LA conference. Which workshop did you most appreciate? Why?

Hands down, Karen Cushman’s workshop called “Research: The Journey is as Much Fun as the Destination.” I love historical fiction and Ms. Cushman gave great tips. One of the questions was how she gets the speech patterns for period dialogue exactly right. This is not an exact quote, but Ms. Cushman replied “I’m not sure that I do. Nobody is around who actually lived during that time, and if I got it exactly right, young readers today wouldn’t understand it.” She talked about using just enough words of the time period to give her stories flavor.

Karen Cushman gave an amazing keynote as well, I thought. Other than Ms. Cushman, which speaker did you most enjoy? Why?

That’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. Some of the most memorable moments include the speeches of Sherman Alexie, Ingrid Law, and Richard Peck. Richard Peck has the most amazing voice. He could read the phone book and I’d still be mesmerized.

I know you’ve attended regional conferences before this annual event. Would you recommend this annual conference to other writers? Why or why not?

Absolutely. It’s like a regional conference times 10. There are simply more agents, more editors, and more workshop choices than at a smaller conference.

Thanks, Shannon! My fingers are crossed that you’ll win that trip to New York to show off your wonderful TALL TALE RAY to some interested editors!

You can learn more about Shannon by visiting her website:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Back to Reality

I'm back from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. Physically, anyway. I’m still in a California haze made up of wisdom and inspiration, with amazing conversations still swirling in my head. Four days of keynote speeches, workshops, and encouragement from fabulous writers, artists, editors and agents. For me, some of the highlights included Sherman Alexie’s opening keynote where he talked about how kids feel trapped and how books become their way of escape from a harsh world. If you ever have a chance to hear this man speak, run don’t walk to the presentation. Wow. And Richard Peck was, as always, mesmerizing. He talked of many things, but I latched on to his words about how stories turn on epiphany--the moment of sudden awareness when we can’t go back. Karen Cushman spoke of how writers pull their hearts from their chests and offer them to the readers. Another wow. And Ellen Hopkins suggested that as writers we must give our pain to our characters.

That’s just a taste. Want more? Check out These bloggers were everywhere, doing their best to catch everything possible. Great for those who couldn’t attend. And for those of you on Twitter, go to for another kind of recap.

Beyond the incredible words and emotions, there was also the usual fun and nonsense.

The ladies out-numbered the gents, as usual, so at least one men’s bathroom was transformed into a ladies room. Something about placing potted plants in the urinals. As you can see from the picture, the women appreciated this more than the guys.

And there were, of course, the critiques, the author panels, the agent panels, the portfolio showcase, the jokes and raffles, the Saturday night party, The Golden Kite luncheon. . . And oh let’s not forget the long lines at the Starbucks each morning—a great place to meet other authors and illustrators. Okay, so the word on the street was that the other guests in the hotel were NOT too happy with all the children’s writers and illustrators taking over, but we were a friendly group and we didn’t bite.

Okay, there’s my brief overview. I’ll be sharing more conference stuff in the weeks to come, but if you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them. Maybe they will help me clear the haze and get back to reality.

Monday, August 3, 2009


In a few days, which will probably be too short given everything that I need to do, I’ll be flying out to Los Angeles, on my way to the 38th annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. And I am soooo excited about this! Because I’ve been to this conference before and it has always been informative, inspiring, and entertaining. In summary, an absolute blast. There is just something fabulous about getting hundreds of people who love children’s literature together in a big, beautiful (and happily spacious) hotel. There is a crackling energy that resonates for four days, a spark and sizzle that I always bring home with me and wear around for days like a favorite jacket.

So, as I run around packing, gathering up notebooks and pens, copies of DOG GONE and postcards for BUCK FEVER, I’ll be getting increasingly giddy with anticipation about seeing some of my writer friends, meeting people I’ve only connected with via the internet and getting to know others simply because we’re sitting next to each other or riding the same elevator. Yes, four days of swimming in everything writing and children’s books sounds like a nice long weekend to me.